19

October

Getting In Rhythm With The Packers Offense

In this week’s edition of “Tuesday’s with Aaron” with Jason Wilde (a must listen if you are a Packers fan), Aaron Rodgers tried to describe what is a “rhythm offense”:

“I don’t know… I think a rhythm offense is an offense that operates best in favorable down and distances and making consistent plays and not having negative yardage plays, whether its a negative run, sack, penalty…and making the plays that keep you on the field”

Rodgers is always insightful during his interviews so his response took me a little by surprise; I’m not entirely sure Aaron Rodgers knows what really is a rhythm offense because no one really knows what a rhythm offense is.  Teams either are in a rhythm or they aren’t; some teams (typically with great quarterbacks) tend to be in rhythm more often than teams that don’t have great quarterbacks, but conversely having a great quarterback doesn’t necessarily mean the offense will be in rhythm.  As far as I can tell, it just happens.

If you’ve watched any Packers games at all this year, it should be pretty apparent that the Packers weren’t in a rhythm in beginning of the season and maybe have “righted the ship” with a 6 touchdown demolition of the Houston Texans last week.  To me this seemed a little odd since the Packers managed to start off hot during the 2011 season, and that was without the benefit of having an offseason due to the CBA lockout; so if anything the 2012 Packers should have been even more ready than the 2011 Packers.

Perhaps even more interesting is that Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, two other great quarterbacks known for their use of up-tempo, no-huddle, “rhythm offenses” had very similar results as Aaron Rodgers in terms of struggling early in the season and playing much better down the stretch (if you can even be “down the stretch” in week 6).  Below is a table looking at the individual passing statistics of Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees during the 2012 season.  I’ve split the averages for games 1 to 3 and then games 4 to 6 (the Saints have only played 5 games since they had a bye last week):

 

Aaron Rodgers     COMP ATT % COMP YARDS TD INT QBR Y/A AY/A
1 SFO L 22-30 30.00 44.00 68.20% 303.00 2.00 1.00 93.30 6.89 6.77
19

September

Packers Living Out Their Own Groundhog Day, Over and Over Again.

Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, Green Bay Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy has been living the same game, over and over again.

1) Get a lead

2) Get conservative, keep opponent in the game.

3) Fail to get first downs to kill the clock in the latter part of the fourth quarter

4) Hand the ball back to your opponent with a chance to tie or win

5) Survive…  thanks to a big stop by the defense, often near your own end zone.

The Packers have lived out this scenario in both games so far in 2011. It’s also how they won four out of the last six games last season, including the Super Bowl.

But since the Packers’ Groundhog Day always ends the same way, (with a win) we shouldn’t be concerned, right?

Well, unlike Bill Murray, who tried like hell to get out of the loop he was stuck in, McCarthy seems resigned to let the scenario repeat indefinitely. Murray eventually found himself in the same position.

But then Murray tried a different approach, taking advantage of his knowledge of how the day will play out to try to make improvements to the day, helping to improve himself and all of those around him. Then eventually, the loop was broken.

So how about it Mike, why not use your knowledge of repeating history to your advantage? Make some changes in your “day” (game calls) when you get in those same situations next time. Perhaps you’ll break the loop.

I can assure you, Packer fans will appreciate it.

 

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

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11

September

Despite Slow Start, James Jones Still a Weapon for Packers

Don't give up on James Jones just yet.

Packers WR James Jones didn’t see much action Thursday Night against the Saints.  Does this mean the Packers don’t need him or won’t use him?

It reminds me of a guy I know who has a basement full of weapons. Guns, ammo, knives, night-vision goggles, explosives, flares, etc., etc. If you hear of  something blowing up and creating a giant hole, it’s likely in his basement.

I always chuckle when I’m at his house. If you go downstairs to get a beer, chances are good that you’ll have to step over an AK-47 or a giant tub full of bullets the size of your arm to gain access to the fridge. People’s reactions to these weapons differ. Some are fascinated, some are frightened, some wonder why he has so many and some don’t know what to think.

It’s the same with the Packers WRs. There are so many weapons, that people get overwhelmed, probably even the WRs themselves.

James Jones is probably the one overwhelmed right now. He was only targeted once on Thursday night while everyone else seemed to get all kinds of opportunities, even if they weren’t open.

People are wondering why the Packers bothered to resign Jones in the offseason. They just drafted Randall Cobb. Jordy Nelson appears ready for a breakout season and Jermichael Finley was returning. Why did the Packers need to spend over $9 million on Jones, a player that causes just as much frustration as he does excitement?

I’ve always liked Jones and probably give him more love than he deserves, but I’m glad the Packers resigned him and I wouldn’t write him off just yet.

While the rest of the roster has dropped like flies, Packers WRs have been abnormally healthy. Jennings hasn’t missed a game since 2007. Nelson missed three games in 2009, but has otherwise stayed on the field; and Driver has only missed three games since becoming a full-time starter in 2002.

If the Packers luck on keeping their WRs healthy runs out, someone is going to have to fill in. Like Frank Zombo, Charlie Peprah and Jackson/Kuhn/Starks were at various positions last season, Jones is an ideal depth guy at WR and could adequately replace one of the other guys (speaking of health, Jones has only missed six games in his career).

15

June

Will the NFL Lockout Impact the Green Bay Packers Offense?

When the lockout started, many NFL observers thought the Green Bay Packers were built to survive an offseason without OTAs and a shortened preseason. Truth is, nobody knows for sure how a team will react to an entire offseason without contact with coaches and organized workouts.

Speculating which team is built to withstand a lockout is kind of silly, anyway. It’s not like Ted Thompson built the Packers with the idea that they wouldn’t be able to practice one offseason. I don’t think he instructed his scouts to find him players that perform better without the benefit of OTAs and a full training camp.

Thompson built the Packers by acquiring talented players. And talented players should perform with or without the benefit of offseason practices.

Unfortunately, the Packers are not the only team with talented players. Every team has talented players. It’s the teams that get the most out of that talent that ends up winning. OTAs, training camp and exhibition games play some sort of role in determining which players get the most out of their talent.

That said, let’s take a look at the Packers position group by position group and try to determine how the lockout and lack of OTAs (and possibly a shortened training camp and reduced preseason games) might impact them. We will give each position group a rating after some brief thoughts. One means the lockout has minimal negative impact on the position group, 10 means the lockout has a major negative impact on the group.

The offense is up first. We will address the defense later in the week.

Quarterback
The more reps a QB has with his receivers the better, so the lockout definitely isn’t helping Aaron Rodgers. However, Rodgers is a veteran – a veteran with a championship – that should have little problem getting reacquainted with a receiving corps he’s already familiar with.
Impact: 4

Running Back
I’m not that worried about James Starks and Alex Green (and Brandon Jackson if he’s resigned) getting extra carries during offseason workouts and training camp. Actually, taking it easy and reducing wear and tear on running backs in practice is probably a good thing. But it would be nice to get Starks and Green some live looks at different blitz pickup situations. If Jackson leaves, they’re going to have to pick up the blocking slack.
Impact: 7

10

June

Packers Offense: Why Tricky Does Not Mean Complex

In a recent article on NBC, Football Outsiders senior writer Mike Tanier wrote a piece on how the lockout might have a detrimental affect NFL offenses.  (Picture taken from National Football Post, props to anyone who can figure out what play this diagram is showing)  The reasoning is pretty simple, with less time to prepare and train players due to the lockout, playbooks and offensive philosophies that are considered “tricky” are going to be harder to execute than “simple” offenses and therefore put “tricky” offenses at a disadvantage.

I respect Tanier’s work and I think Football outsiders is one of the best football websites out there, but this article had me scratching my head a little.  The implicit suggestion of this article is that if a team utilizes a “tricky” offense they should consider dumbing it down to account for the lockout.

To me this seems a little bit ridiculous, teams spend years building an identity and to throw it out the window for one year sounds like a decidedly bad idea.  Should the Packers take the ball out of Aaron Rodgers hands and start calling more running plays?  That’s not who the Packers are and it definitely wouldn’t work for them.  That’s like asking the Tennessee Titans (who Tanier uses for comparison for the Packers), to take the ball away from Chris Johnson and give it to (insert quarterback here).

To me the inherent flaw in this piece is that ”tricky” plays are inherently complex and that complexity is handled the same for each team.

  1. Personnel factor heavily on the play selection: All teams try to maximize the strength of their players while mitigating their weaknesses.  For the Titans, this means running the ball and for the Packers this means throwing the ball.  You can bet that if the Titans had Aaron Rodgers they would throw it more or if the Packers had Chris Johnson they would run it more.  Simply put, the Packers are built to run a more “tricky” offense, but that also means that they are better suited to run “tricky” plays.
    • Above all, the quarterback determines the limit of “trickiness”: The quality of a quarterback can mitigate many positional deficiencies on the offense, but the quality of a quarterback also determines how “tricky” an offense can get.  The Titans are a mess at quarterback at the moment, they’ve announced that former starter Vince Young will no longer be on the team and Kerry Collins is not lock to make it back either.  The team also drafted Jake Locker in the 1st round, who is considered talented but raw at this moment (and is a rookie quarterback to top it off).  It’s pretty obvious that the Titans are going to try to limit the damage of an inexperienced/ineffective quarterback by relying on its running game and defense.  On the other hand, the Packers have Aaron Rodgers, who might be the best quarterback in the NFL at the moment, and actually taking away “tricky” plays would likely hurt Rodgers’ production.
15

March

According to Hobbes: Packers Offseason Primer on the NFL Combine: Wide Recievers

Wide Receivers: Here’s the third of a series of articles looking specifically at the NFL combine and the Packers’ drafting tendencies. (read here for the rationale for this series and here for quarterbacks and here for running backs).  This article will use the combine numbers from previous players drafted by GM Ted Thompson as a guide for what wide receivers are likely to fit into the Packers’ scheme.

Again, this is merely an attempt to make a best guess based on statistics at which players the Packers might be interested in, game tape naturally trumps combine numbers, so take all of this with a grain of salt.  But I believe it will make for some interesting discussion. Listed below are two wide receivers in this year’s draft who I think fit the Packers scheme the best, based on their combine numbers.

Statistics of wide receivers drafted by the Packers:

Name Height Weight 40-Yard 3-Cone Shuttle Vertical Broad Bench
Terrence Murphy 6’1” 202.00 4.39
Craig Bragg 6’1” 196.00 4.45 36.00
Greg Jennings 5’11” 195.00 4.42 6.69 4.18 36.50 117.00
Cory Rodgers 6’0” 188.00 4.58 7.38 4.19 33.50 110.00
James Jones 6’1” 208.00 4.54 7.06 4.20 34.00 119.00 22.00
David Clowney 6’1” 190.00 4.36 7.00 4.15 32.50 123.00
Jordy Nelson 6’3” 215.00 4.51 7.03 4.35 31.00 123.00
Brett Swain 6’1” 200.00 4.40
Average 6’1″ 199.25 4.46 7.03 4.21 33.92 118.40 22.00
StDev 1.13 9.05 0.08 0.24 0.08 2.08 5.37 N/A

What the Packers are looking for: Ted Thompson is in love with wide receivers; the Packers had arguably the deepest wide receiver core in the league and it definitely helped them during their Super Bowl run.  Add to that Thompson always brings in a couple of wide receivers into camp and the fact that wide receivers are tied for the most drafted with 8 and it becomes apparent that wide receiver position is a big deal for Thompson (ironically, he’s somehow avoided the curse of Matt Millen by drafting 3 wide receivers high in the draft and hasn’t really had a bust)

8

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Offense — James Jones

1) Introduction: Drafted in the third round of the 2007 draft, Packers receiver James Jones has battled through an up and down start to his NFL career. Jones started nine games in his rookie season and caught 47 passes for 676 yards, but he only managed 52 catches and 714 yards the next two seasons (2008-09). A lingering knee injury contributed to his lack of production in 2008 as he only saw the field in 10 games.

When healthy, however, Jones can be a difference maker in the passing game. He has a big frame (6’1″, 208 lbs), and underrated straight line speed that often sees him getting behind defenders. Jones might not have the ceiling of a No. 1 receiver, but he’s one of the best No. 3 receivers in the NFL today.

2) Profile:

James Deandre Jones

Position: WR
Height: 6-1    Weight: 208 lbs.

Born: March 31, 1984 in San Jose, CA
College: San Jose State (school history)    (Jones college stats)
Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 3rd round (78th overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft.

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: Mixed. His rookie season gave us a brief glimpse of what Jones could do over the course of a season, but injuries and a frustrating lack on consistency kept Jones from breaking out in the Packers offense.

In addition, both Greg Jennings and Donald Driver were coming off 1,000 yard seasons, and Jermichael Finley figured to become a bigger part of the offense. While having a bevy of weapons is surely a luxury, there are only so many footballs to go around and it was unsure how many Jones would see in 2010.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: To be honest, the entire 2010 season was a mix of highlights and lowlights for Jones. The Packers bi-polar receiver was either making you say “wow!” after a sure-handed reception or causing you to throw beverages at your television screen after the easiest of drops.

Jones started his highlights in Week 3 against the Buffalo Bills, as he made a nice adjustment on a back shoulder throw from Aaron Rodgers for a 30-yard touchdown. In Weeks 7 (vs. Minnesota), 8 (vs. Dallas) amd 10 (at Minnesota), Jones caught a combined 15 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns.